Released in 1982, The Sender was a paranormal fantasy that had the misfortune of opening in perhaps the best year for fantasy cinema of all time. With heavyweights like Star Trek II, E.T., Poltergeist, and Conan the Barbarian siphoning off moviegoers, and opening in direct competition with Halloween III, The Sender never really found its audience. It does have some passionate defenders to this day, most notably Quentin Tarantino, but The Sender was never able to attain anything beyond minor cult status.
1982 was also a breakout year for South African composer Trevor Jones. Fresh off his well-received score for 1981’s Excalibur, Jones also wrote a lush, gigantic fantasy score for another fantasy picture in a year stuffed to the gills with them, Jim Henson’s puppet fantasia The Dark Crystal. Hired for The Sender due to his previous association with the director, Jones turned in a score that was very much in the same sonic universe as the fan-favorite Crystal.
The main thematic construct, as heard most prominently in “Gail and the Sender” and “End Credits,” is a mysterious melody for orchestra, soloists, and light electronics that will instantly remind listeners of some of the most mystical fantasy tracks on Jones’ resume (“The Mystic Master Dies” and “The Gelfling Ruins” from The Dark Crystal in particular). The music is lush and haunting, especially when a female vocalist joins in, and its appearances throughout the album are its outstanding highlights.
Unfortunately, perhaps due to The Sender‘s status as a tense, character driven piece of cinematic horror, most of the rest of Jones’ underscore for the picture is not terribly effective away from it. Eerie synths fade in and out of an orchestral recording highlighted by its broodiness, and a mood of unease is the most defining characteristic of the remainder of the work. Devotees of The Dark Crystal will recognize many of the synthetic textures from the composer’s other 1982 score, but this is if anything a downside: anyone hoping for the same lush fantasy sound is bound to be disappointed.
Ultimately, The Sender is an album best for devotees of the film and fans of Trevor Jones. The former will get La-La Land Records’ outstanding presentation of what is essentially an LP album assemble from 1982, while the latter will get a few blasts of a fantastic and otherwise little-known theme from Jones. The balance of the material, though, is tough to sit through for anyone without a strong and abiding affinity for the film or the composer.